CLEVELAND — The Cleveland faithful got a look at the future when Brady Quinn saw his first NFL action, but it was Derek Anderson who delivered a late Christmas present Sunday afternoon.
Anderson was knocked out of the game with an injury to the little finger on his throwing hand late in the second quarter, but returned to lead the Browns to a 20-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in front of a sellout crowd at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“If this was going to be the last game of the season, I wanted to be out on the field with those guys,” Anderson said. “I don’t care if it was broken or not.”
Anderson said he banged the finger on a defender’s helmet on consecutive plays and immediately headed to the locker room for X-rays.
The crowd began to cheer when Quinn, who hadn’t played a snap during his rookie season, began to warm up on the sideline.
“We started joking with him on the sideline to try and keep him loose,” wide receiver Joe Jurevicius said. “We were calling him pretty boy and stuff like that. The crowd would begin to chant, ‘Brady, Brady,’ and we’d chime in with a ‘sucks.’
“We were really giving it to him.”
Quinn had his first pass batted down and threw several passes behind his targets, but then settled down to throw three consecutive passes for first downs.
“It’s tough coming off the bench like that,” Quinn said. “You can throw all you want on the sidelines, but in the heat of the game it’s different — not only for your arm, but your legs, too. A couple of those passes, my feet felt like they were in cement.”
Quinn led the offense to the San Francisco 6-yard line, then had consecutive passes in the end zone dropped by Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow.
“Brady threw it right at my chest,” Winslow said. “I am human sometimes.”
The drive still resulted in a 23-yard field goal by Phil Dawson to give the Browns a 17-7 halftime lead. Results of Anderson’s X-rays were negative and the quarterback returned to action during the second half.
“My hats off to (Anderson),” Winslow said. “That shows you how tough he is. I really thought he was out for the rest of the game.”
Anderson had said during the week leading up to the regular-season finale that it was important for him to bounce back from last week’s four-interception performance in a loss to Cincinnati and to be on the field to finish the season.
Anderson gave the fans their biggest thrill of the day when he threw a perfect 45-yard pass into the hands of Edwards for a touchdown early in the second quarter. To make the play, he had to stay patient in the pocket and took a monstrous hit as soon as he released the ball.
Anderson also had the day’s lowlight when he threw his 19th interception of the season on his first pass attempt. He tried to force a deep pass to Winslow near the goal line but 49ers cornerback Walt Harris leaped up and made the catch.
“I’m obviously disappointed in some of the turnovers I’ve had this season,” Anderson said. “I tend to look more at the negative aspects of my game than the good numbers. I’m not really there yet, but to have 10 wins in a season is still pretty exciting.”
Anderson finished with 152 yards on 11-of-20 passing and a 75.4 passer rating. The touchdown pass gives him 29 for the season, tying him with Frank Ryan (1966) for second on the all-time list and putting him one behind Brian Sipe — who threw 30 in 1980. He also finished with 3,787 passing yards, the fifth-highest season total in franchise history.
Quinn finished with 45 yards on
3-of-8 passing and a 56.8 passer rating. But everyone seemed to agree the rookie did a good job in his NFL debut, including Browns legendary running back Jim Brown, who made a point to shake Quinn’s hand in front of a crowd of reporters after the game.
“(Quinn) looked like he did OK,” Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. “I told him all year he was one play away and he had to be ready and today was that time.
“He went in and represented himself well.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.